The Elusive Pro Quality Interface

Discussion in 'Converters / Interfaces' started by teddancin, Mar 16, 2002.

  1. teddancin

    teddancin Member

    I'm very new to this forum. I have been looking for an Interface for my computer with really good converters, and enough inputs (xlr and 1/4 in.) to allow me to get around comfortably.

    I was looking at the new Motu 896, cause it looks like it has everything I need in it. I heard from a few different people that the audio conversion quality leaves something to be desired, and I just wanted to see if anyone agreed or disagreed.

    I have about $1,500 to spend, but I really want to make my first purchase the correct one, so if it means spending $2,500 on some other interface that's way better, then it'd be worth it, granted I could make recordings that could pass for professional. Any suggestions?

    I'm running a dual athlon system (not a via chipset) with 1gig of ddr 2100 ram under win2kpro, I have firewire and whatever it'll take.

    I'm really anxious to buy a good audio interface so I can start recording some CD's that I wanna put out, so your input is much appreciated. Thank you so much.
  2. Jon Best

    Jon Best Active Member

    Well, I am probably going to get an 896, mostly because I think the 1296 sounds fine, and the built in mic pre's will help me immensely for location stuff.

    If you really want something you'll never feel a need to apologize for, I'd say cough up a litle extra for the $2000 Lucid 8 channel AD/DA, and then spend a couple hundred on one of the ADAT I/O cards from RME. A little more (at if you want the Hammerfall and it's 24 ADAT I/O.

    Just below that, and probably on par with the MOTU, would be the same card and the single rackspace RME converter.
  3. Opus2000

    Opus2000 Well-Known Member

    MOTU makes some cool stuff but the converters do lack some quality to them. Also the drivers for PC's are not that great nor is their support for PC based systems as well.
    If I were you I would look at some of the posts on the Nuendo forum regarding dual athalon systems and MOTU equipment...not many success stories there and if there are there's quite a battle to get them to work properly.
    If you want good converters than what Jon reccomended is correct...RME.
    Another company that makes a good interface with good sounding converters is Echo
    If you have the cash then buy an RME card and then get an Apogee Trak2 for your Mic pre/DI interface and get yourself the Adat Ambus card! The sound of the Trak2 is amazing! Just my $.02 worth
  4. teddancin

    teddancin Member


    A resonse already! I'm so... shocked. And on top of that, it's not just some beat-around-the-president/half ass'd answer either. This forum is my new favorite.

    -Jon Best
    When you say "Lucid 8 channel AD/DA", are you talking about the ADA 8824 (ADAT)? If so, I would have to respond by saying that it only has a sample rate of 48KHZ. What's up with that? I also want to say thank you for responding so fast and and with good suggestions.

    So you think that the RME converters are better than the Lucid ones? Also, what's that stuff about the Apogee trak2... that thing's crazy expensive, plus it doesn't have many ins/outs, so I'd have to expand it. But you think the Apogee stuff as really good conversion? Also, what's an Adat AMbus card? Thanks for your help

  5. Fredrik

    Fredrik Guest

    You might wanna have a look at:

    Fredrik Lidin
  6. Opus2000

    Opus2000 Well-Known Member

    I dont think the RME is better than the Lucid by any means..just putting some ideas out there so you can see and research everything..
    Apogee converters are definately very nice indeed! When I brought home the Trak2 to test out and play around with my ears were amazed at the clarity that it produced! The ADAT Ambus card is an optional card bus system that will allow 8 channels of adat in and there are other cards available as well such as the AES card, TDIF card, the Digi card and the soon to be FireWire card.
    Yes, Apogee is definately not cheap but also very worth get unparelled support(try calling any tech support and having them answer on the first ring!!)
  7. Jon Best

    Jon Best Active Member

    Hey, you're right- I haven't been looking specifically at 96K converters, so I guess that escaped me. Sure is a great converter, though. Opus is right- Apogee stuff sounds good, but keep in mind it's one of the few converter companies that people seem to buy based on it's color, instead of based on transparency specifically. Sort of the Neve of converters- really top notch quality and sound, but not what you want if you don't want any signature at all. If you feel you need 96K, then I'd probably suggest something like the RME *plus* a lucid stereo 96K AD, for critical tracks. I can't speak to the soundscape product link above, but I can say when I had a Soundscape Mixtreme and 8 channel converter, it was very clean. Never compared it to anything, but I can't imagine it being the weak link for anyone.

    I'll reiterate- if you go with an outboard converter and a digital sound card, I can't think of a single reason *not* to go with one of the RME cards, whichever flavor you need. Matter of fact, if you do a lot of single tracks at one time, an RME Hammerfall DSP card/Multiface interface/Lucid stereo converter setup would probably run you $1400, and give you eight solid converters, two great ones, and a near-bulletproof soundcard.

    You may also want to look at - it's more expensive, but the stuff is amazing, and sometimes he has some B stock sales going on.

  8. Fredrik

    Fredrik Guest

    Hello... :p

    Fredrik Lidin
  9. Opus2000

    Opus2000 Well-Known Member

    Yes indeedy folks...Apogee has made the converters for the new Soundscape stuff..oh boy oh boy!!! lol!
    Jon...Apogee based on color? :eek: what in the wide wide world of sports are you talking about!! Ha ha ha ha!!
  10. Jon Best

    Jon Best Active Member

    Well, when you stick them in a room with the Mytek and Millennia (which are the only two I've heard them next to), everyone starts talking about how punchy they are, and how great they are for rock and roll. I don't think you could ever really go wrong on *any* kind of music with any converter in the line, but they do have some (minor, pleasing) character to them.

  11. teddancin

    teddancin Member

    I'm in shock at how helpful you guys are here. This is great.

    That soundscape stuff looks pretty sweet. Do you have any Idea what the price on something like that is? How does it compare to other DAW stuff that's out right now?
    One thing that scares me a little bit is that the stuf is made (along with apogee) by mackie, and not that mackie's bad or that this has anything to do with DAW's, but when I went to test out Monitor Speakers, everyone was raving about the mackie HR-824 speakers, and (to my ears) they really colored the sound... I thought they scooped the mids a lot. So I went KRK-V8's

    What do you personally think about the LUCID converters? Can you recommend a specific RME setup that would be really high quality with at least 2 XLR inputs 24bit/96khz and around or under $2,500?
    Also, I was reading your thread about your computer setup, sounds pretty nice, any stability problems with the overclocking? Did you know that the P4's based of the 478 pin design (little one's) that are of 2.0-2.2 Ghz also have a .13 micron architecture (the 478pinned p4's below that Ghz have .18 micron architecture) and they operate with 512KB of cache? I think those are pretty awesome, but I'm sure they're expensive as hell.

    -Jon Best
    Hmm, if those lucid converters are as good as you say they are, I might just have to pick one up. I was looking at the AD9624 ( cause it's the only one that I could find that would convert at 24bit/96khz. The ONLY thing that I'm not the most fond of is that it only has 2 analog inputs, and their both xlr. If I had to take only two analog in's, I'd want them to be xlr, but it just kinda sucks for the few things I have that require 1/4 inch inputs. Plus the fact that there are only 2 analog inputs.... there's no way that I'm going to be mic'ing a drum kit anytime soon with that (but for RIGHT now, I don't really need to mic a drum kit, but it would be nice to have the capability in the future). Could I just expand by adding another one of those same Lucid AD9624's in the future?

    Also, from what I gathered, it didn't have a computer interface with it, so I'm assuming that you were suggesting earlier that I should get an RME hammerfall card and just use that as the interface. I'm assuming I would run the digital Lightpipe OUT (from the lucid box) to the digital Lightpipe IN of the RME card. My only question with that is how does the analog sound come back OUT of the card so that I can hear it? That may be a stupid question, but I just wasn't sure how the setup was supposed to work.
    I also checked out that MYTEK stuff.... the 8X96 series 8 channel 24 bit/96 kHz ADC looked sooo cool, are the converters on that really worth the $2795.00 price that he's asking for it?

    sorry for all the questions, it's just not everyday that I find a forum where people actually know what they're talking about like in this one.

  12. Jon Best

    Jon Best Active Member

    Most of what we are talking about are converters, which by definition aren't necessarily computer specific. So, no, most of them are not a sound card as well, although plenty of sound cards include analog inputs and converters. Apogee, Mytek, Lucid, RME standalones, don't have computer interfaces. Hence the RME sound card recommendation- they're some of the most solid cards out there. If you get an eight channel converter, odds are pretty good that it'll have ADAT lightpipe. In that case, yes- you'd pick up a card with a lightpipe input, hook them together, and promptly forget they're different pieces of gear- it'll all be one front end in use. Some of these converters have AD and DA in the same box (Lucid 8 channel, RME 8 channel, Apogee PSX) and some are just AD's (Lucid 2 channels, Apogee Rosetta). In that case, you'd need something to convert back (DA) to listen to. If you only are ever going to need 8 or 10 channels of input, you could get the RME DIGI96/8 PST, which would give you solid stereo in and out analog, ADAT lightpipe IO, and S/PDIF stereo digital IO. That means you could get something like the stereo Lucid AD, and use it and the two onboard converters for 4 inputs (2 good, 2 really good), and listen back through the onboard DA. Then, later on, you could pick up an 8 channel converter if you needed it. Or you could pick up the RME 8 channel now, and have 10 really solid ins and outs from RME, and an exceptional pair of Lucid inputs for critical tracks and overdubs. And you're still under $2K, I think.

    OK, I think I just figured out what I would suggest... :)
  13. knightfly

    knightfly Active Member

    Hey teddancin - One thing that hasn't been mentioned yet - You keep talking about 24/96, so I ass(u)(me) you mean it - Here is another "fly" in your/my ointment - ADAT does NOT do 96K without help, most good software ( Samplitude, Nuendo, Cubase, Logic?) now saves at 32 bit (not 24) I am only familiar with the way Samplitude does this - you specify in global setup menus to use 32-bit floating point mode, then Samplitude uses that format for all internal processing AND disk storage. When you're done "^#$%ing up" the song, you burn a CD, and THEN Samplitude downsamples to the appropriate "CD Quality" to burn it. The MAJOR advantage to this is minimum conversion/truncation distortion/loss thruout the project. The disadvantage is storage requirements, both capacity and speed. (All files are now 32 bit 96 kHz on disk, or 4.35 times as big as 16/44.1 - SOOOO, If you really want 24/96 operation of a DAW (or digital console under $20K) you get HALF the # of channels/tracks electronically, and less than 1/4 the tracks as a function of disk speed/size.

    You CAN use ADAT in a 24/96 setup, but here's how it works - RME (maybe others) does a trick they call S-MUX - where they "bit split" a track of 24/96 to two tracks of 24/48, then put it back together at the other end. The good news is you get 24/96 capability with lightpipe, the bad news is you get 4 channels for the price of 8, and you have to find all the right pieces that "talk" the same language.

    I have been checking this out for the last few months, as I am the recent owner of a Tascam DM-24 mixer. I would have bought the thing even if all it could do was the "Hardware Control Surface" thing, as it was $2400, vs. $8500 for the Protools version. However, like Opus, I am at least part Jewish (the "I want more for less" part). So far, the contusion (sic) I have come to for my needs is this: TDIF out (2) of the DM-24 into an RME ADI-8DD (converter box), ADAT out (2) into an RME "Digiface", and into the computer via the Digiface's PCI interface. This will give me 8 channels for the price of 16, and the option to use all 16 if I want to give up the 96k.

    There is an excellent thread on the pro/con of this, with very good explanations by Greg Malcangi. Check it out -

    (Dead Link Removed)

    On the .13 micron, 512 cache thing - This is the "Northwood" chips referred to on all the recent threads on DAW's. Definitely kickin' some ass...

    Don't worry too much just yet about the Mackie/Soundscape/Apogee thing - Mackie just recently "acquired", or whatever - Anything from Soundscape is most likely only changed as far as the "label", at least for now. Don't take my word for it, our bud Opus here works for Apogee and probably has more of the "skinny" than we do, how 'bout it Opus?

    On sound cards, Jon has good reason to recommend RME (bang for the buck) - However, if you're serious about 24/96, remember to double your budget for sound hardware, and quadruple it for disk storage.

    You're right, RO rocks for info - And, if you ever forget it, we'll all get together and kick yer ass :=)) You keep postin', we'll keep postulatin'... Steve
  14. teddancin

    teddancin Member

    -Jon Best
    Thank you so much for taking the time to explain everything to me. I kinda guessed that things worked the way that you said they did, but the ultra broken down clarification really helps.
    I'm on the verge of buying 1 lucid AD9624 and 1 RME-DIGI96/8 PST (assuming that the analog outs on the RME are 2 1/4 inch, cause their website is really vague about the in's/out's of the digi96 cards).
    Will I need external mic pre's right away for the Lucid AD, cause it doesn't have phantom power that I could see, does it(although I'm sure I'll need good pre's soon anyway even if the lucid does have them)?
    One last thing (I promise : ), I'm still new to the whole digital music transferring business. The Lightpipe out of the Lucid that goes Into the RME card would still be able to seperate the two inputs right? riSo I would still have two tracks once it got to my computer ght? It wouldn't just blend them together if I had two mics going into the one lucid converter would it? Just making sure. Also, if there's ANY software that you're looking for, just let me know and you might find it. Once again, thanks a ton.
  15. Fredrik

    Fredrik Guest

    I don't know the price for the Soundscape-converter, but it should be around $2000-2500. Since it is not shipping yet nobody knows. This is just a wild guess...
    However Knightfly's remark about the "label-changing" is true regarding the Soundscape 32. But I believe the interface is a new product. If someone has the absolute facts of this, please correct me.
    If it indeed is the "old" Soundscape interface with some new features (Apogee-converter/MADI/8 AES etc) and a new label, I couldn't recommend it more highly. Very clear, clean and transparent.

    I hear very good things about the Lucid interface as well. It's a good thing to check all your options.

    Fredrik Lidin
  16. Fredrik,
    The I/O 896, co-developed by Mackie and Apogee, condenses all of the previous Soundscape I/O boxes into one high-quality I/O box that does everything. It will have an SLP of $3995 USD.

  17. Jon Best

    Jon Best Active Member


    ADAT Lightpipe (which is a data format, as opposed to the optical cable it travels on, which is just a cable technology) is 8 channels. S/PDIF (and AES/EBU) are stereo data formats (most common way of transferring S/PDIF is on 75 ohm coax cable with RCA ends, but you can also have optical S/PDIF- see the seperation between data format & cable type?). So, if you get the stereo Lucid, it's not going to have ADAT lightpipe- I know it's got AES/EBU (which you're going to find on 110 ohm XLR cables), and it probably has S/PDIF as well. If you go the stereo Lucid route, then, you're going to need a sound card with one of those types of inputs, and if you go the 8 channel/ADAT Lightpipe - equipped Lucid/RME converter route, you're going to need a sound card with optical ADAT Lightpipe inputs. The card I mentioned before has both, so you can start with whatever you want to start with.

    None of these have mic pre's, so you'll need to plug something into any of them. There are a handful of converter/soundcards with mic pre's, but I don't have as clear a handle on which ones may be the best sound- that approach also does not let you do selective upgrading later on.

    FWIW, I am probably going to get an RME Hammerfall PCI card with the Multiface interface for the fixed in place studio computer, and a Metric Halo Mobile IO to switch between the studio and live computers. I'll keep reporting back on how that falls together!
  18. Fredrik

    Fredrik Guest

    I think you should go with my price instead... LOL :D :D :D

    All jokes aside... I'm sure it's worth it! :p

    Fredrik Lidin
  19. teddancin

    teddancin Member

    I don't get this god-damned $*^t!
    I've been studying this crap for hours trying to soak it in... going to audio glossaries and trying to figure out this whole S/PDIF (I now know what the hell it stands for) vs. Adat lightpipe BS. Learning computers was never this difficult.

    I think it might just be that RME's website is really hard to understand. I'm practically positive now that I want the Lucid AD9624, but I need to connect it to my computer. EVERYONE says that RME cards are the way to go, so I'll probably do that, but it's impossible (for me) to figure out what card has what features.

    I'll make my dilemma very clear to you with an example, just to make sure there's no confusion (already got enough of that over here).

    example: The Lucid AD9624 says that it has S/PDIF optical outs on it.
    So, I was looking to plug that S/PDIF optical out into (what appears to me, to be) the S/PDIF optical ins on the DIGI9636 Hammerfall Light Link removed .

    That doesn't seem like it would be a hard task because to me, it looks like this RME card has 4 possible optical S/PDIF ins (I'm not even going to begin to talk about that fifth Breakout Cable connector that's on the card, I just want to talk about the 4 S/PDIF optical looking things on the card).

    Then I look right below the picture of the card, and it says it has
    (2)adat digital i/o...
    (1)SPDIF digital i/o...
    (1)adat sync in (9 pin d-type)
    ok, right there, that's 4 connections, so that's all of the things that I thought were SPDIF. But in the spec's, it says that only one of them is SPDIF digital i/o.
    So, does that mean that I could only attach one Lucid converter to this card through the optical SPDIF, making expandability (me getting more Lucid converters) not possible?

    Jon Best said that ADAT lightpipe is just a format. A format that transmits 8 channels of audio. From what I gathered, he said that SPDIF is just a format also, but it only transmits 2 channels (stereo).
    If that were true, and they both still used the same wire to connect optically, then would'nt the RME card be able to use ALL FOUR of the optical i/o on it's card to transmit DIGITAL SPDIF as opposed to (according to the specs below the picture) only having 1 SPDIF digital i/0?

    Am I going crazy? Am I really just that stupid that I can't grasp this concept? If so, feel free to break it down to me like you would to an infant, cause I don't care at this point, I just wanna know what the hell they're talkin about.

    Thanks for listening to my mad rant.
    -teddancin (a sad man)
  20. Jon Best

    Jon Best Active Member

    I figured I would not be clear enough- I talk a lot, but sometimes I don't say much... :)

    You are pretty much right on in your understanding, with one exception- your (say, optical) inputs and outputs have to be designed to support whatever data format they're going to accept. In other words, yes, optical jacks can be used for either S/PDIF or ADAT lightpipe. If a particular manufacturer doesn't decide to make them support S/PDIF _as well as_ ADAT lightpipe, however, then you're dead in the water. It is possible for a manufacturer to configure an optical jack to support either format.

    So, the Lucid stereo converter has optical S/PDIF, coaxial S/PDIF, and AES/EBU on XLR jacks. And, RME has configured their cards to accept either S/PDIF or ADAT lightpipe on the optical inputs. Unfortunately, I just re-read the RME web page, and I don't think you can use all the input types at once on the Digi96 series cards- it looks like you're limited to *one* of the 2 channel formats, *or* 8 channel ADAT lightpipe. Glad you haven't bought yet- I'd hate to be to blame for an incompatible system, or for you to have one- I usually check this crap out better... I was actually thinking of the DIGI9636 Hammerfall Light. 2 ADAT IO, plus S/PDIF on *either* the coax connection *or* one of the ADAT connectors. And you can use ADAT and S/PDIF at the same time (on different connectors). So, you're still back to one S/PDIF at a time, of either flavor, but you can stick an 8 channel guy on there at the same time.


    A) Hammerfall light, Lucid ADA8824.

    B) Hammerfall light, Lucid AD9624, RME 8 ch. AD/DA

    There. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like you can set yourself up for multiple stereo-to-S/PDIF converters without multiple cards, with RME. (They are good at that, though). You could also later on get a reasonably priced Friend-Chip patchbay to turn multiple S/PDIF signals into one lightpipe stream, and get at it that way. Otherwise, I'm not aware of a multi-S/PDIF soundcard, although someone else will probably pipe up with one...

    Hope that makes the mud just a little clearer!


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